Kaldric Dow gazing at some of his works from East Side Portraits.

Kaldric Dow gazing at some of his works from East Side Portraits. Renato Lopez/The Paisano

UTSA alumnus Kaldric Dow leads representation through his focus on skin tone

It is a gloomy Saturday, but a special day for artist Kaldric Dow. It is the opening day of his exhibit, East Side Portraits, and his ecstatic smile helps exemplify all that he is feeling. We originally planned to meet at Hays Street Bridge, but the unexpected rain put a damper on our plans and relocated us to his private studio nearby. There, Dow is even more electric as the art on the wall adds an extra layer of captivity about him.

Portraits of well-known celebrities such as, Michael B. Jordan and Michael Jackson initially catch the eye, but upon taking a closer look, they are portraits of unfamiliar faces that are more alluring– particularly the portrait of two identical faces that resemble Dow. “That’s me and my twin brother,” he said.

“I take my time to process it all, and though we have been in the space for only a few minutes, it’s not until Dow takes a seat, offering me one as well, that he really lets me in.

Dow is a Houston native, and it is there that his interest in art was first realized. “In the sixth or seventh grade, I went on a field trip to a museum in town,” he said. “We went into the exhibit and there was a huge picture of this black man holding his nuts. I freaked,” Dow joked.

“I didn’t even know it was possible for someone who looked like me to be creating something like that so unapologetically. I knew I wanted to create that feeling in many different ways.” – Kaldrick Dow

From there, he started creating his own art, with his first muses being his family. “When I lived at home, I always had subjects — from my mom to my sisters.” When he won a first place prize in the VASE competition for his depiction of his family in portraits, it pointed him straight to his niche. “I knew there was something to creating pieces with special meaning,” he said.

When taking in Dow’s collection, one can’t help but notice the astonishing array of brown. His art features portraits of many brown people, not black, as he says. No one is truly black. This realization inspired his fascination with skin tone.

“Skin tone is so intricate,” Dow said. “You look at someone and say ‘he’s brown’, but I see the purples, reds, greens [and] blues. I see multiple tubes of paint.”

His upcoming exhibit, East Side Portraits, is an extension of his celebration of color. It features humanizing and intimate portraits of residents of his own neighborhood. Though each portrait captures the many idiosyncrasies of the human face, from the slight upturn of the mouth, to the deep creases in a cheek, all are weaved together by the rich and diverse color brown. His work even highlights the beauty in human connection, as he frequently paints familiar relationships.

“This neighborhood really is who I represent,” Dow said.“When I first started working, my muses were my family. This neighborhood is like an extension of that. Now it’s on a larger scale and it’s becoming my muse to represent them.”

He has made it his mission to further investigate skin tone and more complex ways to represent it. “There will never be a roof on the depiction of skin tone,” Dow said. “There is no cap.” His work will continue to shed light on the multi-faceted color brown. Every art piece creates another opportunity in which the mixture of brown hues creates another color just as beautiful as the hues that make up the mixture.

Dow plans to push his artistry even further, and won’t stop until he sees brown people even higher in the art world, and in more positive representations, until it is considered normal and not out of place. For an upcoming exhibit at the Carver Community Cultural Center next March, he plans to work on a series of family portraits which resemble ancient family portraits that were commissioned by kings and queens, but for local families in the neighborhood.

For now, Dow is holding the baton. He is now creating the representation for some brown boy that will see himself through Dow’s art, just as he saw himself through that artwork in the Houston museum. “When people see my work, I want them to say: ‘that is me,’ or ‘that is my grandson,’ ‘my grand daughter’ or ‘my family.’”

And as he sits quietly and takes a moment to revel in his own work, it is ever apparent that he plans to hold onto the baton for a while.

Dow’s East Side Portraits exhibit will run from Sept. 29 to Dec. 31, 2018, at the Dakota East Side Icehouse. To view more of Dow’s work, visit www.kaldrickdow.com.

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